G’day Mate. We took a couple days off dodging sharks and crocodiles to attend the Australian Open. For Trevor, this was the last leg of his fan grand slam – he’s now been to all four major tennis tournaments. Christine has yet to attend Wimbledon, but that will hopefully happen in the next year or two. (Read about other tournaments we have attended here). We had always heard that the Australian Open is the most laid back, casual and fun major tennis tournament. So, did it live up to the hype?
We’ll start with the basics. We went online at midnight in Montenegro (where we were at the time) back in October to make sure we got tickets. We snagged tickets to the first Friday on Margaret Court Arena (the 2nd most prestigious court) as well as the 2nd Monday on Rod Laver Arena (the centre court). Ultimately, we also got Margaret Court Arena tickets for that 2nd Monday as well – more on that later!
The Australian Open – The Happy Slam
There’s something special about attending any Slam, and each has its own personality. Wimbledon has it’s buttoned up British air and tradition. The US Open has its New York brashness. The French Open at Roland Garros has its French “Je ne sais quoi” where the players sip rosé on changeovers (or at least should). The Aussie Open is the laid back slam.
There were so many good things about this tournament. The location is near the city centre of Melbourne, so we could walk from our AirBnB to the grounds. The grounds are spacious and never feel crowded. The top three courts all have roofs, so unless you only have grounds passes, you don’t need to worry about being rained out. There’s an entire kids area separate to the rest of the grounds, which is great for people like us who don’t want to deal with other peoples’ children. 😉 We were allowed to bring in our own snacks and drinks. During the first week, there’s even the AO Festival with live bands.
It does! It was also a little strange in ways. Whereas other slams are sold out months in advance, the Australian Open didn’t sell out either day we were there. Granted, that maybe explains why the grounds didn’t feel crowded. But it also means we needn’t have worried about being online within minutes of tickets going for sale in order to secure our seats. Even on the Monday – keep in mind this is the 4th round of the tournament and should be in high demand – there were plenty of tickets available on the day. The upside is this means you never have to pay scalper prices like you do at the US Open, but also means that buying far in advance is likely a waste of time. Wish we’d known that before!
The match scheduling was also very odd. For example, by the 4th round, there are only the top 16 players left in each of the Men’s and Women’s draws. So when we bought expensive tickets on centre court for the Monday 4th round matches, we expected to get a full day of high quality singles matches. Instead, the people in charge seemed to want to spread the high profile matches among the other show courts.
As Canadians, we really wanted to watch Milos Raonic’s match, which was scheduled for that day. He was the #3 seed in the tournament, and the highest remaining seed in the draw. You’d think that would be a prime match to put on the highest profile court, right? You might think so, but you’d be wrong. Milos was relegated to Hisense Arena, the 3rd court and a court open to anyone with a grounds pass.
You could argue that it’s great that grounds pass holders still get top matches. Sure. But what about the people that paid 4x as much to be on centre court? The only reason anyone does that is because there’s an unwritten understanding that the highest profile matches will be on the top court. Instead, they put mixed doubles on Rod Laver. And just to be clear, no one cares about mixed doubles – not even the players playing mixed doubles.
Even the schedule on Margaret Court Arena (the 2nd court) was better than Rod Laver that day. Since tickets on Margaret Court are only 25% the cost of Rod Laver, and only slightly more than a grounds pass, we ended up buying Margaret Court tickets as well just so we could see a few decent matches. This was only one example of the very strange scheduling during the tournament. Andy Murray, the World #1 ranked player and 5-time finalist at the Australian Open was also scheduled to play on Hisense earlier in the tournament. That would never happen at any other Grand Slam tournament.
Given the number of tickets easily available on the day, if we went again, we’d wait until the schedule is released the day before then buy our tickets. It was hard not to feel a bit ripped off.
So How Did It Compare?
We had high expectations for the Australian Open. In fact, the only reason we came to Australia during their high tourist season is to go to this tournament. But compared to the others? Ok, the rip-off of the US Open due to the prevalence of scalpers hogging tickets definitely keeps it at the bottom of the list. The history of the French Open and Wimbledon are also hard to compete against. The Australian Open has a good atmosphere, spacious grounds, and is accessible (something you can’t say about Wimbledon, unless you’re willing to shell out big $). But the weird scheduling and empty seats aren’t doing the tournament any favours.
Having said that, we ultimately had a great time at the tournament. For any tennis fan, attending a Grand Slam is an incredible experience, and the Australian Open is no different.